The online world in 2018 was shaped by hashtags like #MeToo, #NoBanNoWall, and #BlackLivesMatter. In 2019, the hashtag #ClimateStrike went viral thanks to the work of youth activist Greta Thunberg.
So, what does 2020 have in store in terms of popular hashtags? Well, they may not even make the cut on social media sites like Twitter, according to Moya Bailey, an assistant professor at Northeastern.
Bailey explains that with all of the social shifts starting to take place around the world, expressing their gravity and power in a hashtag may not be enough anymore. Twitter has been at the forefront of these types of movements for over a decade now. However, as it struggles to keep up with other social media platforms, it may be losing its grip a little bit.
Just like with Facebook, Twitter’s population is getting older, and it’s not drawing the crowds like it used to. In fact, other social media apps are doing this instead, leaving the older demographic online to the likes of Facebook and Twitter. This means that it is stagnant and showing no signs of letting up.
Pew Research Center conducted a study that claims the average age of Twitter users to be 40. Meanwhile, you have other social media apps like Snapchat and TikTok that attract a much younger demographic average, with most of them being under 30.
Because demographics are so different across the board, different trends are seen depending on which platform you’re on the most. For example, with TikTok, Bailey says that you can see things like memes and videos meant as a nice distraction. However, you can also see a bit of nihilism, too.
These nihilistic tendencies are seen more in the younger generations in general, she explains. It appears that the younger generation is getting better at predicting the future than its predecessors, and while they are making a lot of noise in this regard online, people don’t seem to be ultimately changing how they behave.
If you focus too closely on trending hashtags, Bailey says, you risk missing the ways in which the younger generation are getting together, and how they are filtering the political climate of 2020.
As for her own students, Bailey claims that she’s noticed a movement toward creating and developing communities that are enjoyed in person, away from the online world. She also takes note of how younger people spend their money, and how different it is to the older generation.
The point is that the younger generation shows behavior that indicates a strong desire for change that you may not necessarily see online. In order to read the youngest generation and the direction they’re hoping to take as they get older, you’ve got to look beyond the simple hashtags that are put online and associated with various tweets.
The world of online sharing and social media has come full circle in a way as more and more people seek the community of others in real life, as well as in the virtual world.